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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Grade / No Grade

Earlier this week, on my post about Practice the Way You Play, there was a very astute comment by Mary H. She asked, "How much credit do you give for right answer and how much credit do you give for showing work?"

I briefly responded to this question in the comments, but I wanted to expound on that as well as get other people's take on the issue.

Personally, I think that showing work -- computations, notes, labels, etc -- especially on math problems, is a vital skill that kids need to learn AND utilize. To me, it is absolutely no good if a child turns in a test or a homework with all of the correct answers, but no work shown. I'm not convinced (especially on a homework) that that child knows how to do the problems and didn't just copy off of someone, guess luckily, or get someone else to do it for them.

I'm not someone who tells kids, "I don't care if that's the way your mom taught you to do it, you have to do it MY way or else!" I certainly prefer that kids do the work the way I've taught them, and the way we've practiced in class, but if they come in and say they learned some other way, I'm ok with that -- as long as that work is clearly shown! Only then can I see that they followed the correct procedure and mastered the concept.

I often employ the strategy of "camoflauged grades" on tests. In other words, I sometimes put one grade in my gradebook and different grade on a test. If I am trying to emphasize the importance of doing a particular set of steps, then (with ample advance warning) I will take a few points off here and there on a child's test for not showing those steps. Their grade visible on the test will reflect those deductions. However, I usually give them credit for correct answers (work or no work) in my grade book. During a test, I KNOW that they're not getting the answers from someone else -- I keep a close eye on the kids during a test -- so I want their grade to accurately reflect their answers.

I can recall times when a student has scored a 100 in my gradebook (all answers correct), but had a 65 written on their test!

What do you think of this? As I ask the kids, agree or disagree? How do YOU try to emphasize the importance of showing work?


Columbia Lily said...

Expecially when it comes to math and science, I think it is incredibly important to show the steps to the solution. It is impossible to tell if a kid truly understands the actual concept behind the answer unless you can somehow seen their brain working. If they don't really understand how to get to a correct answer, they will not understand anything after that point. Even teaching history, it is very obvious to me where a kid got stuck with a concept, because they never get beyond that point and all future lessons are lost on them.

Columbia Lily said...

I can spell...oops. "Especially" should be the first word's almost like I picked up some grammar from the kids. Anyone want to axe me for the answer? =)

kherbert said...

In my district having different grades on the test and in the grade book would be considered falsifying grades.

If the directions say show your work for credit we can take off for not showing work.

Kimberly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kimberly said...

Our parents and students have access to our online Grade Book so different grades wouldn't fly.

I teach 2nd grade and do take off points for not following the directions - I count it as one of the questions. I justify this because in grade 3 they take State tests and loose credit for not showing work. It's a shock to parents at first (2nd graders are too young to care) but it gets my message across clearly!!

Allison said...

Although I get the importance of showing your work, I'm confused by the "camouflaged grades." What you're saying is that a kid thinks they got a shitty grade but actually did really well? That seems....sketchy.

And I don't really see the point, as won't they figure it out when they get a progress report listing all their grades (or do they not get those)? And then wouldn't that hurt their trust in you as a reliable and ethical adult? I'm sure you're not intending it that way, but it's how it would come across to me.

Mister Teacher said...

Yeah, I know it sounds a bit sketchy, but I think I didn't explain it well enough. When I put their grade on the paper, it says something like -1 = 90 or -3 = 70. Then underneath that, it may say -5 points or -8 points, with a new grade based on the deduction.

By "camoflauged grades" I meant that the kids don't necessarily know which grade is going in the grade book, and I usually emphasize the lower grade because I'm trying to get them to show their work.

So the "true" grade always IS on their paper. I don't think what I do would be considered falsifying grades or being unethical. Thanks for the clarifying comments.


Mary said...

My kids NEVER show their work, in fact a lot will do the work and then erase it! They are almost embarrassed that they have to think in order to get the answer, not just know it at the top of their head. I have to say I have to do a better job to model and explain what showing your work looks like. You know in reading we do think alouds, in math we should do the same thing, show our thinking and write it down so students can see the process.

Mister Teacher said...

Mary, I absolutely agree that we need to model it. I model proper strategies all the time! I even say things like, "This is what you need to do" as I repeatedly model. I even have them tell me the steps repeatedly. Then they go and ignore the steps on a test.

I've seen erased work as well. That's almost more frustrating than no work at all...